Collaboration Moves from Opportunity to Obligation

  February 10, 2020

Our 2020 Sales Kickoff (SKO) here at SmartBear was, like with most companies, held just about a month ago. And, after taking some time to reflect on all that was shared between sales, marketing, product, and the executive leadership at SKO, I realized something unique about this organization.

We understand what real collaboration looks like, what it requires, what it delivers to our customers—and that it’s mandatory for success.

“You’re setting yourselves up for the future”

After sharing some examples of the amazing growth that SmartBear achieved in 2019—and the opportunity we have to take this company even higher—SmartBear CEO, Justin Teague, remarked to the room, “You’re setting yourselves up for the future, and having fun along the way.”

No single team has all the answers, the experience, or the diversity in their points of view to deliver software that delights customers on their own. But what each team does have, is access to all of those. Learning how to build cultures and workflows through collaboration is a tremendous asset for your future, and like Justin said, seeing the effects it has on your products, your customers, and your enjoyment of the work itself is beyond fun.

“You have a lot of choices between what you want to stand behind”

With the statement above, SmartBear Chief Revenue Officer, Frank Roe, reiterated Justin’s point about the opportunities we all have to gain invaluable experience in the tech industry. But there’s a uniqueness here, given the breadth of the software delivery lifecycle that SmartBear products cover.

From full suites of tools like Zephyr and ReadyAPI, to open source offerings like SoapUI, Swagger, and Cucumber, Frank’s point about the freedom of having a lot of choices comes with the obligation to “stand behind” them. One of the ways that SmartBear employees demonstrate their dedication to this is through collaboration on a truly global scale. And this doesn’t mean the marketers in the US do one set of actions, while the solutions engineers in Ireland do something completely different, and teams in Poland, India, and Australia each solely own their work. Each team asks the others questions at the discovery stage of any project, offers opinions from completely different points of view, celebrates the success of those they may have never even met in person, and welcomes honest feedback and room for improvement during retrospectives.

“Innovation starts with knowledge acquired through understanding and empathizing”

This was my favorite quote of the entire SKO, and was said by Chief Product Officer, Christian Wright. When SKOs are little more than a collection of self-aggrandizing speeches, attendees head back to work with little more than over-inflations of already enlarged egos. Companies tout unparalleled software innovation all the time, without ever crediting anything other than “technical expertise.”

You can have Amazon, Facebook, or Google-grade technical resources, and maybe even their innovation budgets, but without organization-wide understanding and empathizing with your customers, there’s little chance of those “rockstar” devs building and releasing products anyone actually wants or needs. Early and frequent collaboration with customers is key, and I love seeing it take place here every day.

Wright went on to state, mind you, to room full of salespeople, “It doesn’t just matter if the product is selling. It matters if it’s doing what customers need to do, continuously.”

The presence of collaboration isn’t always obvious, but you can count on your customers to be the first to spot its absence.